Two days ago, the Ministerial Support and Public Affairs section of the Department of Defence issued this media release ( my commentary follows):
UNKNOWN SAILOR TO BE RE-INTERRED WITH FULL MILITARY HONOURS
The reburial of the remains of the likely HMAS SydneyII sailor will occur on 19 November in Geraldton.
Although the remains have not as yet been identified, they are believed to be those of a crew member of HMAS Sydney II, which was sunk off the West Australian Coast on 19 November 1941 following enemy action.All 645 crew from HMAS Sydney perished. The sailor's remains were exhumed from Christmas Island in October 2006.
However while an official re-interment and memorial is being conducted, the case is by no means closed.
Since 2006, the Royal Australian Navy has overseen a painstakingly thorough and methodical forensic and historical investigation in an attempt to identify the remains.
While the unknown sailor has not been identified, the Royal Australian Navy will be holding a DNA sample so that if any further information comes to light, comparing with relatives can still occur. In the meantime, it is important that he is given the dignified reburial that he deserves.
Due to the capacity of Geraldton War Cemetery, the re-interment will be a very small, intimate affair. However, Sydney II family members and the general public are invited to attend a larger memorial service at Queens Park.The reinterment at the Cemetery will be broadcast live back to the Queens Park venue.
While the investigation of the sailor’s identity will cease this month, family of HMAS SydneyII crew members who wish to be considered for DNA testing and comparison against the remains are asked to make contact with the Christmas Island Investigation Team by letter to: Director of Navy Ministerials & Coordination, Department of Defence, R1-4-C070, Russell Offices, Canberra, ACT, 2600.
" ... the investigation of the sailor's identity will cease this month, ..."
The RAN's efforts to identify the remains have relied upon a combination of forensic examination of remains, relics found in the grave, and DNA testing of what they believe to be likely surviving relatives. As I've pointed out several times, I believe they have concentrated their search amongst the surviving relatives of the wrong group of crew members. The identification team has concentrated upon officers and canteen staff members instead of the engineering section ratings I believe would have been more fruitful.
Witness statements and testimony includes that from surviving members of the HMAS Sydney (II)'s crew who did not make the last voyage for various reasons. Amongst a wide range of matters being examined by the President of the Inquiry and Counsel Assisting have been questions relating to the clothing worn by various personnel on board ship in the course of their normal duties and at their action stations. I infer from this that the President and Counsel Assisting are attempting to determine from which group on board ship the Unknown Sailor of Christmas Island may have originated.
It is apparent that they are trying to determine who may have worn blue coloured boiler suits of coveralls. It appears that the wearing of such was not confined to the engineering section, as I had supposed.
The thoroughness of the inquiry and the depth of evidence and testimony brought before the inquiry is very impressive.
I look forward to the findings of the Commission of Inquiry.
The re-interment of the remains of the Unknown Sailor of Christmas Island is premature. This ceremony should await the identification of the remains and consultation with any surviving family.
Certainly, the cessation of the investigation into the sailor's identity is premature - and I am certain that that investigation will be reviewed by the Commission of Inquiry.
The only way I knew that this video was faked, is because the real John McCain cannot raise his arms above his shoulders due to the permanent damage he sustained in his plane crash and subsequent PoW captivity.
My friend Nico, who happends to be a German, commented on my blog piece about Holocaust deniers. In my response to Nico I wrote that one of my concerns is the parlous lack of knowledge today about the events of World War II amongst younger people in Australia.
Here is an example from The Adelaide Advertiser newspaper in a piece by Matt Neagle. Early this week a Nazi flag was flying from a flag pole at an Adelaide home.
Let's just review a couple of comments by the man named Will, who lives at the house.
The Croydon man, who only gave his name as "Will", said the Nazi flag went up as a joke at a "drunken" house party a few weeks ago.
"It's the funniest story around... well I found it funny, apparently the community is not finding it too funny," Will said.
"We meant no offence, just a drunken party, bit of fun, never took the bloody thing down, caused a whole heap of offence, we're sorry about that, but you know..."
When asked by AdelaideNow if he knows the symbolism of the flag, Will replied:
"Not really, no."
I see no reason not to accept what Will says as the truth. He just did not know that flying the Nazi flag could or would cause any offence.
Partly his responsibility. Partly the responsibility of our education system. Partly the responsibility of all of us.
It's useful to remember that there are many people in our nation, just like Will.
There's a few things being said about voter registration fraud for the upcoming Presidential poll. Put that in google and see what you get.
On an analogous matter, there's a certain podcast to which I regularly listen.. It's really good. But one must question the ethics of their producers' emailed appeal to boost their vote in the 2008 People's Choice Podcast Awards.
This is what I've been asked to do:
"Now, we're asking for your votes to win these awards. Please go to podcastawards.com and cast your vote...once per day...between now and November 6, 2008."
Asking me to vote seems OK.
Soliciting my vote seems OK.
But to vote "once per day" ? I have some ethical qualms about that part.
There's been mention in the news this week of a holocaust denier.. Unfortunately one who is usually based here in Australia. I won't give that person the publicity he seeks, but I will bring to your attention a few of pieces of evidence that people of his ilk avoid mentioning.
One allegation they make is that there was no mass murder of Jews by the Nazi regime in Germany during world War Two.
Well, what do the archives say?
From the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library comes this letter dated 15 April 1945 from General George S. Patton to General Eisenhower about a camp four miles north of Weimar. Reference is also made to the camp at Ohrdruf which patton and Eisenhower had visited together upon liberation. Which is just one of many documents held at the Eisenhower Presidential Library (part of the National Archives and Records Administration of the USA government) relating the Holocaust. There are other letters written by Eisenhower attesting to his eyewitness acount of the "sickening" atrocities he witnessed in concentration camps. There are also a variety of US Government and military reports surveying the vast scope of the Nazi genocidal machine. Many are digitised for on line perusal. Read them here.
There is the very important book by Donald Watt, STOKER - The Story of An Australian Soldier Who Survivied Auschwitz-Birkenau. Don Watt was an Australian Army soldier who saw action in OPalestine, North Africa, Greece and Crete. Captured by the Germans in Crete, he was imprisoned in Stalag 357 near Torun in Poland. After escaping he was recaptured and sent to Auschwitz as punishment.
His job there was to incinerate the bodies of the dead in the crematorium. He was the stoker.
The book was published by Simon & Schuster Australia in 1995 and here are some exceprts from pages 91 - 96.
"It worked like this. Cattle trains with trucks loaded with people marked for death pulled up right inside the camp. The doors were opened and the people ordered to get dwon and line up. Some were selected for work camps or medical experiements, while the rest, the vast majority, were marched over to the gas chambers, hundreds at a time. They were told they were about to be deloused and given a shower, and had to strip. After the shower, they were told, they woould be given camp clothing and assigned to work parties.
As the world now knows, this was nothing but lies, lies, lies. There was no shower, there was no food, there was no special clothing. Instead, they were locked in the gas chamber and gas pellets thrown in. After 20 minutes, they were dead. The doors were then eopened and the bodies pulled out. Their hair was cut off, their mouths inspected for gold teeth, which were ripped out with pincers, and their fingers checked for rings. Their bodies were then trundled over to the creatoriam, where they were thrown into the furnace. Gangs of men, just like me, kept the fires burning brightly.
Gas was one thing they had in plenty - that, and people to use it on. The deadly Zyklon B gas, with its cyandide base, was made by the Degesch company, and vast quantities were delivered at the height of the gassings. I know, because I saw the drums....
The four gas chambers and four crematoria at Birkenau were kept busy right around the clock. Holidays and Sundays didn't exist in those death fatories. Every day, trainloads of Jewish men, women and childen, gypsies, communists and other 'undersireables' arrived at the camp, sometimes at 90-minute intervals. By counting the bodies as they trundled over to the furnaces, I estimated that from May 1944 until the end of November 1944, Crematorium 2 and Crematorium 3 each disposed of 5000 corpses every 24 hours, seven days a week. ..."
Don Watt's book, Stoker, is not particularly well written, nor is it an enjoyable piece of reading. However it is a very important historical document, by an Australian, who was there and saw it with his own eyes.